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Arch Pathol Lab Med. 1992 Dec;116(12):1292-300.

Cytokines and growth factors in atherogenesis.

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Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Mass. 02115.


The development of laboratory techniques for the culturing of vascular endothelial and smooth-muscle cells during the 1970s, followed by the rapid advances in molecular and cell biology during the 1980s, provided the foundation for the identification of growth factor and cytokine networks involved in maintenance of the normal vasculature as well as participating in diverse pathologic processes involving blood vessels. Vascular cells can produce and respond to a vast array of biochemical messengers that control cell replication, differentiation, and many specific cell functions. Investigators are beginning to explore the changes in the patterns of messengers exchanged between the vascular cells and infiltrating leukocytes during the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis. A variety of in vitro and in vivo studies have indicated that growth factors and cytokines that mediate the critical processes of inflammation and wound healing also play a central role in vascular disease. Indeed, many view atherosclerosis as the result of excessive or prolonged chronic inflammation and wound healing in response to diverse injurious stimuli to cells of the vessel wall. Vascular injury may result from many varied and interacting forces, including nutritional and metabolic abnormalities such as hyperlipidemias or elevated homocysteine, mechanical forces associated with hypertension, exogenous toxins including those found in cigarette smoke, abnormally glycated proteins associated with diabetes mellitus, oxidatively modified lipids or proteins, and, possibly, viral infections. Ultimately, a greater understanding of the activated cytokine and growth factor networks within the vascular wall following injury and during atherogenesis will allow clinical scientists to identify steps susceptible to therapeutic intervention using recombinant cytokines, antibodies, soluble receptors, or receptor antagonists. Other therapeutic strategies may involve the transfection of specific genes, which may inhibit atherosclerosis, into vascular cells at sites prone to lesion formation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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